Byron Center, Michigan’s Rick van Beek has combined both and has one of the more amazing stories we at The Good In Sports have ever come across.
Rick runs marathons. Half-marathons. Triathlons. And other distance races. Well, sure, you say, a lot of people do that. What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that through it all, Rick is pushing, towing, or carrying his 13-year-old daughter, Madison, who has cerebral palsy and functions basically as a 3-month-old, according to van Beek.
Team Maddy’s most recent run was the Sanford and Sun spring triathlon, covering a 0.3-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run.
Most people have a hard time imagining completing a triathlon. Now, imagine completing a triathlon while pulling an inflatable kayak; completing the bike ride towing a trailer; and running while pushing a modified stroller/buggy. van Beek, however, has done more than imagine. He does it as a matter of routine.
The 39-year-old father of three told the Midland Daily News that “…one of the very few things that we know she enjoys is being outside, being in the water, feeling the breeze in her hair and in her face.”
Despite being diagnosed with CP two months after she was born, it took Rick eight years to figure out his next steps. After watching her enjoyment being pushed in the Grand Rapids Marathon, he started making some lifestyle changes.
Serious lifestyle changes.
“To see her being so happy and enjoying every bump in the road was more than I could handle, my emotions took over,” he recounted on his blog. “Shortly after that day I gave up smoking two packs a day and chewing a tin a day to be better, for Maddy. It has been a long road, with many bumps, but we are better.”
And how. Not only is van Beek healthier than he’s ever been, but he gets to spend quality time with his daughter doing something they both love.
“Call it inspiration, call it motivation, call it what ever you want, I call it LOVE,” he posted on his blog last year. “That will never fade…She is my heart and I am her legs, though someday she might not physically be able to be there with me, she will always be in my heart, quietly cheering me on.”
Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking. Caused by injuries or abnormalities of the brain, most problems occur when the baby is in the womb, but they can happen any point within the first two years of the child’s life.
Symptoms include tight muscles and joints and muscle weakness, and may affect one side of the body or both sides.
While this story is getting a lot of airtime, both on this site and other media outlets, van Beek assures people that they aren’t in it for the headlines. They are in it to promote awareness.
As he wrote on his blog:
“What we want is for the families of special needs children to realise that pouring yourself into your child’s life can mean and do more than Dr’s appt’s and therapy”
“Look at me and call me an ASS, but all the time you are wasting on dwelling on the things YOUR child can not do is wasted. Take half that time an push them around outside, let them breath the air, let yourself!”
“Your child will be OK if you take a minute for yourself, and better yet, take it with them!”
“Let the fear and the concern go, what will 15 minutes hurt, or 30.”
“Put the 3 ring binder with all the med records in it down for just a minute and change things up. Walk, run, or just sit outside and forget about all that crap. Your child needs you!”
“Your child’s needs are not just medical, but emotional and physical as well. Pour yourself into that.”
“Get off your ass, and stop feeling sorry for YOU. Look at your child and do what you can for THEM!”
“Just because you are the parent that makes every support group meeting, and can name every drug and every ailment your child has ever had. That does not mean you are involved, as much as you could be.”
“Look into your childs eyes, feel that. They aren’t wanting to know, “has it been 2 weeks since my last…what ever”.
“All they want to know is that you are there for them, what ever happens.”
“That is why Maddy and I do this thing, running and triathlons. She doesn’t care what happened the day before, just give me fun NOW!”
The Good In Sports thanks Rick van Beek and Maddy for keeping priorities in perspective, reminding us what’s important, and most importantly, practicing what you preach.